2013-03-07 / Editorial

Sen. Reed sponsors bill to raise minimum wage

In an effort to help working families and strengthen the economy, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed recently joined U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa as a co-sponsor in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage.

The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has not been raised since 2009. The legislation, introduced Tuesday in both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, would incrementally boost the national minimum wage with three annual 95-cent increases until it reached a rate of $10.10 by 2015. At that point, the bill would ensure the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation to keep minimum-wage workers in step with the economy.

The minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power since its peak in 1968. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be worth more than $10.50 per hour today.

Reed noted that while productivity and the stock market are up, stagnating incomes and the increased cost of living are squeezing working families. Inflationadjusted average income is still about 8 percent lower than it was in 2007.

On Jan. 1, Rhode Island increased the state’s minimum wage 35 cents to $7.75 an hour, raising wages for an estimated 29,000 low-wage workers in the state.

The federal bill would also increase the minimum wage for tipped workers over a longer period of time at annual 95-cent increases, from $2.13 per hour to an adjusted level equal to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour translates to about $15,080 per year for a full-time worker, and the federal minimum wage for tipped workers has not increased in more than 20 years.

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